Blues must try to slow down Bruins in Stanley Cup Final

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BOSTON (AP) — Jake DeBrusk got a step on Robert Bortuzzo and he was off to the races.

Despite missing the net on the breakaway, the message was already sent.

Two minutes into the Stanley Cup Final, the Boston Bruins flashed the speed and skill that got them to this point and exploited it to beat the St. Louis Blues in the series opener. If the Blues have any hope in Game 2 Wednesday night and beyond, they will have to slow down the Bruins somehow, some way.

”There’s different ways that you can wear guys down whether it’s physicality or speed,” DeBrusk said. ”That’s the game now. That’s how you have to play. It’s just races to loose pucks and then playing physical when the opportunity presents itself.”

Game 1 will be remembered for 5-foot-9 Boston defenseman Torey Krug‘s helmetless hit on Robert Thomas, but the Bruins won because they came at the Blues in waves. They got contributions up and down the lineup and played a style that flustered St. Louis into turnovers and a 30-12 shot disadvantage in the final two periods.

The fact that 77.2 percent of teams that win Game 1 go on capture the Cup doesn’t much matter to Blues coach Craig Berube and his players. The Blues, after all, climbed from last place in the NHL on Jan. 3 all the way to the final. They also responded well after a similar, sluggish start to the Western Conference final against San Jose.

Armed with that confidence, the Blues understand the key to earning a split in Boston is stunting their opponents’ relentless rush.

”It’s not feeding into their transition as much,” center Ryan O'Reilly said. ”When we have an opportunity to put it behind them and play that 200-foot game, we need to because you give them the opportunities, they can move the puck real quick and they come at you full speed. It’s not giving them any real easy opportunities.”

Boston’s top line of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak had zero points at even strength , but in the end the Bruins didn’t need them on the score sheet. Coach Bruce Cassidy credited team defense for Boston’s eight-game playoff winning streak, the first in the NHL since the L.A. Kings in 2012 – just don’t overlook how all the layers of offense can affect opponents.

”Usually the teams that are still left here are the teams that have that depth and four lines who can skate and wear teams down,” Bruins center Charlie Coyle said. ”It’s not just two, three lines doing that. It’s every time a line’s out there making something happen whether it’s something little or scoring a big goal or playing solid defensively or wearing them down in their own end. That’s hard to play against through four continuous lines.”

Maybe a game-winner and primary assist from fourth-line forward Sean Kuraly and a goal by third-pairing defenseman Connor Clifton wasn’t in the script, but the Bruins’ depth was no secret coming into the series. Neither was the potency of its power play, which cashed in on the fourth of five St. Louis penalties in Game 1 and is always a threat to score.

Getting back to discipline is one necessary ingredient for St. Louis, as is limiting turnovers. The Blues want to turn the tables on the Bruins and make them defend instead of cranking up the offense.

”We need a lot more O-zone time,” Berube said. ”They’re a good forecheck team. They pressure, they’ve got good speed, they’re a well-structured hockey team. Our puck support wasn’t very good in the second and third period and puck play in general. Just too many turnovers. We need better support, better puck play.”

Cassidy and his staff figured out after the first intermission that Boston could skate wide around the Blues’ bigger defense and create scoring chances that way. Now it’s on Berube and his blue liners to close off that avenue to the net – which is easier said than done.

”They obviously have a lot of skilled players: They’re small and fast and they make plays,” Blues defenseman Colton Parayko said. ”Trying to eliminate them from getting to speed just coming out of their D-zone is obviously crucial. If we can eliminate our blue line from them and allow them to carry it in over our blue line, that’s a big thing.”

NOTES: Berube said D Vince Dunn, who missed the past four games after taking a puck to the face last round, has a chance to play in Game 2. … The Bruins are expected to go with the same lineup as Game 1.

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Trades: Oilers get Athanasiou from Red Wings; Ennis from Senators

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When Connor McDavid returned to the Edmonton Oilers’ lineup on Sunday night and opened the game between Sam Gagner and Alex Chiasson it was painfully obvious they needed to get another winger.

They ended up getting two on Monday when they acquired Andreas Athanasiou (and Ryan Kuffner) from the Detroit Red Wings in exchange for Gagner and two second-round draft picks.

Oilers general manager Ken Holland drafted Athanasiou during his time in Detroit, so there is that obvious connection here.

Just about an hour after that the trade the Oilers also acquired Tyler Ennis from the Ottawa Senators for a fifth-round draft pick.

The Athanasiou one is so intriguing because it seems like it has the potential to be a strong fit. He is one of the few players in the league that actually has the speed to keep up with McDavid, and could create one of the fastest forward duos in the league. After scoring 30 goals a year ago for the Red Wings, Athanasiou has 10 goals in 46 games this season. Now he might get an opportunity to play next to the best offensive player in the world.

He is a restricted free agent after this season.

The Oilers are three points out of first place in the Pacific Division, trailing only the Vegas Golden Knights. Edmonton still has two games in hand.

This is the second trade between the two teams in less than 12 hours after the Oilers also acquired Mike Green from the Red Wings on Sunday night.

Ennis, meanwhile, is an unrestricted free agent after this season. In 61 games for the Senators this season he has 14 goals and 19 assists.

MORE: PHT’s Trade deadline live blog

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Trade: Sabres get Wayne Simmonds from Devils

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Well, here is the most unexpected trade on deadline day (so far).

The Buffalo Sabres, who entered the day six points out of a playoff spot and with multiple teams ahead of them, sent a conditional fifth-round draft pick to the New Jersey Devils for veteran forward Wayne Simmonds.

That pick will become a fourth-round pick if the Sabres make the playoffs this season and Simmonds plays at least 10 games.

Simmonds is an unrestricted free agent after this season.

There is nothing wrong with the cost here for Simmonds. It’s probably about what his value should be in this market and given what he currently provides. Plus, a mid-round pick has very little chance of even turning into an NHL player, let alone an impactful one. But it’s still surprising to see a team in Buffalo’s position attempt to add something at the deadline.

Is it a last-minute effort for general manager Jason Botterill to try and do something to save his job? Or is it a team looking at what happened with St. Louis and Columbus a year ago and thinking, “hey, we can do that too!” If it’s the former, well, that’s understandable. The pressure is on to win in Buffalo and patience is running thin with everyone. If it’s the latter, that would simply be a gross misunderstanding of what happened with those teams (especially St. Louis).

The 31-year-old Simmonds has eight goals and 16 assists for the Devils this season. At his peak he was one of the best power forwards in the league and a true force as a net-front presence on the power play, but his production has rapidly fallen off the past two years.

Buffalo has played much better in February (7-3-1) but has only managed to gain four points in the standings during that stretch. They still have six points to make up and only 20 games to do it. They would not only need to maintain that similar level of play, but also get some help along the way.

MORE: PHT’s Trade deadline live blog

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Rangers sign Chris Kreider to 7-year contract extension

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Some massive news from the New York Rangers on Monday as team president John Davidson announced a seven-year contract extension for winger Chris Kreider, removing one of the biggest names from the trade market just hours before the deadline.

Kreider re-signing with the Rangers was always a possibility, but the longer it went on without a new deal (or talks of any kind) the less likely it seemed to be. But this was clearly something the two sides wanted and they were able to find a common ground on a new deal.

It is reportedly worth around $6.5 million per season.

It is a pricey contract for sure, and with Kreider already being 28 years old there is some real long-term risk down the line. But in the short-term Kreider remains a significant part of a Rangers’ core that has made significant progress over the past couple of months. They may not be able to do enough to get in the playoffs this season, but they are certainly on track to be a serious factor in that race next season.

Kreider is in the middle of a career year for the Rangers and has always been a lock for around 20 goals and 50 points while bringing a ton of speed to the top of the lineup.

The Boston Bruins, Colorado Avalanche, and St. Louis Blues were all thought to be potential suitors if he were to be traded.

More: NHL Trade Deadline Live Blog

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Rangers’ Shesterkin, Buchnevich injured in car accident

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Along with announcing a new contract extension for Chris Kreider on Monday, New York Rangers team president John Davidson said teammates Igor Shesterkin and Pavel Buchnevich were involved in a car accident in Brooklyn on Sunday night.

According to Davidson, Shesterkin was driving when a vehicle did a U-turn in front of them resulting in the collision.

Fortunately both players were wearing seatbelts at the time of the accident.

Buchnevich was “quite shaken up” according to Davidson, but will only be out of the lineup on a day-to-day basis.

Shesterkin has a non-displaced rib fracture and will be re-evaluated in two weeks.

Shesterkin has emerged as the Rangers’ starting goalie in recent weeks and has a 9-1-0 record with a .940 save percentage since his re-call. His performance has been one of the biggest factors in the Rangers’ recent hot streak that has seen them climb back to within striking distance of a playoff spot this season.

The Rangers are currently carrying three goaltenders, while Alexander Georgiev and Henrik Lundqvist will take over the goaltending duties in Shesterkin’s absence.

More: NHL Trade Deadline Live Blog

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.